The Cheltenham & Tewkesbury Cycling Campaign has provided a technical response to the A40 West of Cheltenham cycling proposals, incorporated as phases 3 and 4 of the West Cheltenham Transport Improvement Scheme (WCTIS).
Whilst this is a significant investment in cycling infrastructure, it represents only a fraction of the total scheme amount in an area that will experience a significant increase in sole occupancy car use remains the dominant mode of travel.
Our response highlights the residential desire lines, and the opportunities to create a coherent network with minimal changes to the overall scheme.
Arle Court to Princess Elizabeth Way
The A40 from Arle Court to Princess Elizabeth Way is a busy and difficult road for cycling. It would be useful to many people to be able to avoid using the road when cycling along the corridor.
However to be attractive, any alternative route must be easy and convenient to use. Cycling should not be more difficult or take longer than if using the road.
There are two aspects of the proposals which do not satisfy these requirements:
- The crossing of Telstar Way in three separate phases is unacceptable. Key to comfortable cycling is the need to maintain momentum, by stopping as infrequently as possible. To have to stop three times to cross Telstar Way while motor traffic will not have to stop more than once is not to take the needs of cyclists seriously.
- The crossing of Princess Elizabeth Way, involving a substantial detour from the direct desire line and then making a long crossing in two phases, is also unacceptable.
It is not possible to encourage cycling if road designs favour only motor traffic. It would be quite possible to implement a single phase crossing of Telstar Way, without significant deviation, with only minimal impact on motor traffic entering or leaving this road. Making the cycles phase demand-actuated, delays overall could be kept to a minimum.
The preferred solution at Princess Elizabeth Way is strongly indicated by the original designs here and at Arle Court. When the junctions were first built, it was recognised that to provide safe and convenient crossings for cyclists and pedestrians, grade separation was necessary: cycle track underpasses at Arle Court and a pedestrian subway at Princess Elizabeth Way.
Cycle traffic and the Strategic Road Network 1 (Interim advice note 195/16, Highways England. Table 2.4.2) states that the preferred crossing type for a junction with a speed limit of 40mph or more, with 2 or more lanes to cross and a two-way traffic flow of 6,000 vehicles or more AADT is grade separated. Although this document applies directly only to Highways England roads, the logic of the assessment applies to any similar road. The cost of provision should be a consequence of building a junction on an all-traffic road that is not suitable for most people cycling.
Although the A40 from Arle Court to Princess Elizabeth Way is not suitable for most cyclists, it is likely still to be the preferred route for faster and more competent cyclists, especially if the off-road route is slow and indirect as at present proposed. Cyclists should therefore be permitted to use the bus lane for right turns towards Gloucester Road and road markings should confirm this so that all road users are aware. Advanced stop lines should be provided on all three approaches to the roundabout.
In the reverse direction the road should remain suitable for cycling, with cyclists either turning off at Whittington Road to access the cycle track and underpass, or continuing along the road.
The current proposals do nothing to resolve the various conflicts along the short section of shared use track from the cycle track at Arle Court at the roundabout. The proposed two way cycle track on the verge of the cul-de-sac from the southern section of Hatherley Lane serves no purpose. What is required is a general upgrading of the cycle track from the roundabout to the end of the cul-de-sac. Some help to cross Hatherley Lane at the junction of the cul-de-sac would also be useful. The aim would be to improve access to the shopping centre that includes B and Q.
There is a cycling desire line which has the potential to generate more cycle traffic than some of the east west route proposals and that is from Whittington Road and Benhall into Telstar Way. An original suggestion was to link Miserden Road with the signalled crossing of the A40. However with the bus gate now installed this is more problematic and would entail crossing in stages. A better solution would be to provide a signalled, cycles-only crossing from Whittington Road into Telstar Way meaning cycles could cross in one stage directly into the carriageway of Telstar Way giving fast access from SW Cheltenham.
Princess Elizabeth Way to Gloucester Road
From Princess Elizabeth Way to and beyond Gloucester Road, the road is less difficult and there is a bus and cycle lane eastbound. More cyclists are confident to ride here and this should be anticipated.
There should be a direct connection from the cycle track on the east side of the roundabout to the bus lane in Gloucester Road (east).
The proposed continuation of the cycle track to Griffiths Avenue is acceptable except at the latter junction. From here to Church Road sightlines are so bad that cycling should not be encouraged off-road unless substantial works can be undertaken to improve visibility. It may be better that eastbound cyclists should rejoin the road; it is difficult to recommend the continuation of an off-road link for westbound riders.
The proposal (as understood) to continue the cycle track directly across the mouth of Gloucester Road (north), avoiding the pedestrian crossings, is interesting but needs care in design if it is to be safe, especially when riding west.
Of concern is the lack of detail at the railway bridge. The plans as shown do not include any details where the track reaches the bridge. The parapet of the bridge means that extra width is required for any two way facility. The other problem is that if the steps to the station are ever built from a bus interchange there would likely to be at times a lot more pedestrians in this area, crossing the line of the cycles. Some thought needs to be taken on how to reduce conflict here if the rest of the scheme in this area is to be successful.
The existing signalled crossing of Gloucester Road is a useful facility linking quiet roads in St Marks with the network of quiet roads in Hatherley. However the design of the approaches to the crossing are poor with sharp radii and a rather awkward connection to Kingsley Gardens. Improving this crossing should be included in the scheme
The problems at the junctions along the A40 can be avoided by cycling via Whittington Road, Bibury Road and Granley Road to Gloucester Road close to Griffiths Avenue. This is a better route for cycling than the A40 for most journeys, but would be assisted by traffic signals at the junction of Granley Road and Gloucester Road (which would help all road users) to assist exiting onto Gloucester Road. This route also helps to link with communities in Hatherley, Warden Hill, and much of west Cheltenham.
Whittington Road can be linked directly from the Arle Court underpass, but a better connection at Telstar Way is needed.